Russ Gifford
The History of Westward  Expansion 1840 - 1890

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My Presentations:

Those Who Came Before Us: Regional Prehistory

Native Americans and American History

The Founding Fathers

The American Revolution & Creation of the Republic

A History of the House of Representatives

Presidential Leadership

Contentious Elections in American History

One Term Wonders

Pivotal Moments In American History

The American Civil War and Reconstruction

The Crucible - America After the War of Rebellion

Westward Expansion

Traveling the West in the 19th Century

Supremely Confident: Legal Cases that Changed History

The Fight for the Right to Vote - the Women's Movement

Women Making a Difference

The Rise and Fall of Mass Media

The Great War

The 1920s

Regional Greats

WWII - 75 Years Later

Justice Delayed: The Civil Rights Movement

The Cold War

The History of the CIA

The War in Vietnam

My Generation: The History of the 1960s

Boomer Classics: Books that Shaped the Sixties

Into the Darkness: 1968

Power to the People - from the 1950s to Today

The History of Rock n Roll: The First 30 Years

Regional History

Those Who Came Before: The Mill Creek Culture

Iowa in the American Civil War

Sioux City: Our History and Our Hopes

Sioux City: Ground Zero in the Great Depression

Sioux City: Crime Corruption, & Redemption

World History

The Crusades

The Reformation at 500

Written Works and Articles

Spectacular Voyage: Lewis and Clark in Our Region

Murder On Water Street: The Death Rev. Haddock

A Glimpse of the Past: Steamboat Perils

Empty Parking Lots and Dark Wal-Marts

Susan B. Anthony and  Sioux City in the 1870s

A Chance Encounter with a Legend


Music of 1966:Summer in the City

Music of 1966:Music of Blond on Blond

About Russ Gifford

Contact Russ



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These stories of the American Westward movement have not changed - but they have far more depth when we consider them with a lifetime of experience behind us. I also try to tie the moment in time to the events that are happening nationally and regionally, so we understand all the choices made, or why some choices did not seem available.  I also post questions to consider at the start of each class for discussion and thought, and at the end I have added some books for further reading or information.

The History of Westward Expansion 1840 - 1890

This five part look at the growth of America sets the stage for western expansion. We will see the situation of the English colonies on the coast, hemmed in by the Allegany's and why certain areas beyond the mountains were the first, and the realities of the restrictions of transportation in each era, and realize why it took so long to reach the Mississippi river.

Then each class will narrow our focus for each of the major changes in transportation over the next 40 to 50 years, with a class looking at the push and pull effects of events applied to the era. We will end as the settling of the Great Plains and the West is largely concluded, and see what that means to the United States overall.

Wagons West  1840 - 1875
The story of breaching the Allegany's and then the leap across the plains, Yes, before it was 'Fly over' country, it was 'Walk over' country.

The Gold Rush 1849 - 1860
Who really got the gold? What impact did the rush have? You might be surprised by the reach of this discovery!

The Plains Indian Wars 1850  to 1890
The changes brought by settlers in every region effected the natives far beyond the local region.
Conflict between displaced tribes cascaded along the paths.

Cattle and Commerce 1865 -1880
There are many great aspects to this story than need to be told. The entire operation was a undertaking worthy of the stories it has generated! But the true ones are far more interested and exciting!

Settling the Plains   1870 -1890
The dreary story of the hard work required to make the Plains a productive home is a story that got lost in the shadow of the exciting tales of cowboys and card sharks, of wagon trains and riverboats. But the settlers that tried to tame the Prairie should never be forgotten. This class will wrap up this series of travel tales with a look at what the loss of the frontier really met for America in the coming years.


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Specializing in American History, Russ Gifford ties local and regional history into the program, to enrich audience understanding of why things occur in local history.

        "I have had very positive feedback, and it's clear the students are hoping you will present more classes in the fall.
You are a knowledgeable and gifted teacher and we are proud to have you among our instructors." -- Fiona Valentine, Western Iowa Tech Community College

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